Hazel Hewison


Bachelor of Design Illustration Interaction Motion Web Narrative Storytelling Technology


An Autoethnographic Exploration of Grief Through Illustrative Digital Storytelling.

Shadows is a practice-led design project that uses an autoethnographic framework to investigate, reflect upon and illustrate the human process of mortality and loss. The question posed at the center of this research investigated the application of traditionally illustrated material in a digital environment, asking how an interactive user-experience could present new opportunities for storytelling in a modern, technology-based era. Shadows is an illustrative web-story, portraying the jumbled and hidden thoughts of a person who has experienced the passing of a loved one.

Within the pages of an emotionally heavy story lies the personal experience of an artist or author. Shadows as a concept was born out of a three-year burial of emotion, approached with the hypothesis that cautious immersion into repressed memory would begin a new and healthy grieving period. Shadows narrative theme following the turmoil of loss, the narrator touches on different moments in daily life where grief can shift from a dull ache to a sharp pain, like a sudden change in the weather, or the appearance of a shadow under sunshine. The visual features are designed to both evoke emotion in those who have experienced loss, and immerse others in the story through painted landscapes and personal narrative. There is hope that a story such as this will help people to connect in the future, to let others in a similar situation know they are not alone and can always find solace and support.

The project uses hand painting, digital cel animation and poetic storytelling to portray the long-lasting effects of grief. The significance of this research lies in two areas; Firstly, at the root of its concept, communicating the experience of grief for those who may not understand its true depth or persistence. Secondly, presenting the interactive web environment as a method of linking together immersion and usability. Our experience of media is changing, books and static imagery often being pushed aside for a new reliance on devices and digital media. Storytelling has been a major method of communication for hundreds of years, and now designers of many disciplines can mix hand-crafted narratives and digital environments to keep up with the advancement of technology.